When Mitchell Melton rushed off the edge, almost untouched, to sack Spalding quarterback Austin Tutas late in the second quarter Friday, he knew he made a big play for the Good Counsel defense. It took him a moment to realize just how big.

Only when he stood up did Melton see the result: His teammate, Ronnell McCorn, had scooped the ball and scored, giving No. 5 Good Counsel the lead for good in a 21-7 win.

“I knew the tackle couldn’t really block me — I was going past him every time,” Melton said of his strip-sack. “So I just hit him with a speed rush. I saw my opportunity and took it.”

Spalding Coach Kyle Schmitt knew of Good Counsel’s vaunted defense from previous years and came prepared. But the Falcons were prepared, too. When Good Counsel Coach Andy Stefanelli saw his team’s schedule before the season, he circled Friday as a trap game.

The coaches came expecting a fight and got one. The No. 20 Cavaliers (3-1) stayed within a touchdown until the 6:18 mark of the fourth quarter. Until then, Good Counsel’s defense did everything in its power to protect a precarious lead.

Good Counsel (3-1) forced Spalding’s offense into a regrettable statistic: The Cavaliers moved into opposing territory on each of their first nine drives, but they scored just seven points — an 18-yard touchdown pass from Tutas to Zakee Wheatley that tied the game at seven.

Spalding’s third drive started 30 yards from the end zone but ended in a missed 27-yard field goal. The next drive started at the 1-yard line after a long interception return. But Good Counsel stopped a dive play, broke up a slant pass and sacked Tutas on third down, leading to another missed field goal. One last time, Spalding drove to the Good Counsel 1-yard line in the third quarter. There, the Falcons stood again, stuffing three run plays and breaking up a play-action pass on fourth down.

Good Counsel fed off its defense from there, the energy building with each stop. Spalding threw at cornerback Jalen McNair; after a pass breakup, McNair walked to the bench encouraging his opponent to throw at him: “It gets my stats up!”

“Sometimes when you have a team that’s right now being carried by their defense, it can cause a little bit of a rift between them,” Stefanelli said. “But that’s not happening at all. The defense picks up, and the kids are cheering for each other.”

He finished with the assessment that he has a “championship-level defense” and needs to get the offense on the same level. His team proved Friday that’s a nice place to start.